Ravens play it low-key marketing Flacco

Daily Record Business Writer
September 28, 2008 8:13 PM

As the Ravens prepare for their only Monday night game of the season, the nation will get its first glimpse at the player who has had Baltimore fans buzzing at water coolers for the past three weeks.

But after the on-the-field play, the analysts’ commentary and the post-game interviews, the rest of the country will be pretty much caught up with Ravens fans on all they’ve seen — so far — of their rookie starting under center.

“We really are dying for a quarterback,” said Mike Firestine, author of the blog Baltimore Sports Post, on Joe Flacco. “I want to see more of him... But I think that, in time, we’ll get to know him and he can really latch on to the team.”

The Ravens say they are keeping a low public profile with Flacco, a 22-year-old first round draft pick who was virtually unknown outside of his Division 1-AA University of Delaware a year-and-a-half ago. He and fellow rookies Ray Rice and Tom Zbikowski are the faces of the Ravens Rookies Kids Club, and Flacco made an appearance for the Special Olympics Maryland this summer, but otherwise his exposure to fans has been limited to games and interviews.

“We are letting Joe Flacco get comfortable in his role before throwing him into a situation in the community that is not his own, as of yet,” Melanie C. LeGrande, community relations manager for the team, said in an e-mail.

Regional demand and interest in Flacco has been high since he was named the Ravens starter a week before the season started. His No. 5 jersey is the top-selling player jersey at Ravens’ team stores this season, and his was also the first red practice jersey produced and sold by Reebok, according to the team’s merchandising manager.

But the team’s tactic in marketing Flacco is in line with new coach John Harbaugh’s message to the Ravens earlier this year that the focus stays on the team rather than individual players. Although that means keeping Flacco out of the public eye for now, that’s something fans say they can live with and sports marketers say is a good idea.

“I think it’s very smart,” said David Warschawski, a Baltimore-based marketing and branding expert. “He’s still learning a ton and granted, he’s had two solid games, but the team is making a good decision because his next two games could be horrible. If they were to put Flacco out in front now, that would be a big gamble and a bad gamble.”

It’s a question of logic and balance, industry experts said. If the Ravens put pressure on Flacco to represent the team at public events and to endear fans to him now, it could be too much to handle and affect his play on the field. That, in turn, would hurt both his future marketability and endorsement prospects and the Ravens’ need for him.

“You don’t know what you’re going to have yet, and it’s going to be some time before you do,” said John Maroon, president of Maroon PR. “The slow approach is good because you don’t want to put tremendous amounts of pressure on him. The more he’s out there the more he might feel pressure to live up to his marketing, which can divert him from his game.”

He and others noted that Baltimore hadn’t exactly had a stellar track record with its quarterbacks in the last few years...

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